Whale And Dolphin Captivity Porpoised To Become Illegal In Canada

The Commons Fisheries Committee in the Canadian Parliament has passed a bill banning whale and dolphin captivity. S-203 prohibits keeping and breeding cetaceans in captivity through amendments to the Criminal Code. The measure, which will mainly affect theme parks, has been heralded as a victory for animal rights activists who believe that keeping whales and dolphins in tanks is a cruel.

"The bill is a simple and straightforward one. It works from the presumption that placing these beautiful creatures into the kinds of pens that they have been kept in is inherently cruel," Independent Sen. Murray Sinclair, the former judge who helped push the bill through Parliament told the committee.

If approved before summer, the bill will impose fines of up to $200,000 on parks and aquariums that violate proposed animal cruelty provisions in the Criminal Code. Camille Labchuk, the executive director of Animal Justice, an advocacy group that has supported the bill, is confident the measure has enough votes to pass.

"I am delighted that the Liberals resisted pressure to kill the bill. I think the reason they were convinced to save this legislation is because ... of the power of Canadians who contacted these politicians in droves," she said in an interview with CBC News.

Labchuk said that more than 20,000 e-mails and phone calls had been received before the vote, adding that the ban is something Canadians want. “They understand that whales and dolphins shouldn't be kept in tanks anymore — those in the wild travel vast distances, dive deeply, live in complex family structures and enjoy a quality of life that is much better than the abject misery and barrenness of living in a tank."

Marineland in Niagara Falls, Ontario, is the only facility in Canada that is planning on defying the new law. They have expressed their opposition to the bill from the beginning, alleging that it will affect attendance and impede conservation efforts at theme parks where whales and dolphins are displayed. They also claim the bill will destroy hundreds of summer jobs for local residents. The bill, however, only affects future animals, therefore, Marineland can keep its current cetacean stocks.

According to data from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Marineland has roughly 61 cetaceans: 55 beluga whales, five bottlenose dolphins and one orca, while the Vancouver Aquarium only has one cetacean left. "Marineland has enough beluga whales in existence to probably continue for another 30 years, so no jobs are going to be lost as a result of this in the immediate future," Sinclair said.

He added that the bill is necessary because he believes that we should treat animals the way we want to be treated. Other activists have expressed hope that many of the mammals currently in captivity will be eventually be moved to an open water seaside sanctuary in Nova Scotia.

According to Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), the leading global charity dedicated to the protection of whales and dolphins, cetaceans in captivity have shorter lives, adding that the death rate for captive orcas is 2.5 times higher than in the wild.

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In addition, sea mammals in captivity are prone to attacking each other as well as trainers and members of the public out of frustration. Also, orcas that are kept in tanks spend most of their time swimming in endless circles, causing their tall dorsal fins to collapse. Dorsal fin collapse occurs in 1% of wild orcas, while 100% of captive male adult orcas have collapsed dorsal fins.

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